By jason brown
August 17, 2012
LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette police officer who was found “in an impaired condition” and passed out behind the wheel of his car in October was transported home at the direction of a supervisor, according to a just-released police report containing details of the incident.
The officer was not charged with a criminal offense as a result of the incident.
The police report, released in response to a public records request, fits with one of the incidents that a group of current and former officers described in a federal lawsuit as among the alleged cover-ups by Lafayette Police Department of wrongdoing by some officers.
The police report says Officer Dustin Lavergne responded to the McDonald’s on Johnston Street near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at 5:50 a.m., where he found a “known officer of Lafayette Police Department … in an impaired condition.”
The report does not identify the officer, referring to him only as “the officer in question.”
A separate but related legal filing by the plaintiffs in the federal suit identifies the officer as Jeremy Dupuis. That petition was filed Aug. 2 in the 15th Judicial District Court and seeks to force the city to turn over records pertaining to how the investigation into the incident was handled. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 4.
The police report also contains a supplemental report filed by Sgt. Greg Randell, who wrote that Lavergne informed him that the “Officer in question appeared to be impaired to the point of being unresponsive. PO Dustin Lavergne stated when he arrived at the scene, the Officer in question was observed unresponsive in the driver’s seat with the engine still on.”
Randell wrote that when he spoke with the officer, “It became obvious that the Officer in question was impaired. I then removed his weapon from his waist in order to prevent injuries. I then notified the Watch Commander who in turn sent Lt. Chris Lange to the scene.”
Lavergne wrote that Lange instructed him to transport “the said Officer to his residence.”
Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government, wrote in an email Friday that he could not comment because of the pending litigation.
Asked about the October incident, District Attorney Mike Harson said in an email: “I am still in the process of deciding whether there was a crime actually committed and whether, if there was, my office would handle it or send it to State Police or the Attorney General.”
The federal lawsuit that was filed in June alleges police corruption, racial discrimination, payroll fraud, the manipulation of crime statistics and harassment.
Lafayette police Chief Jim Craft has referred to the plaintiffs as a handful of “disgruntled employees” whose actions are “little more than a baseless and purposeful attempt to dishonor” the department and its officers.
The city also has filed a motion for sanctions against the plaintiffs and their counsel, Stephen Spring and Christopher Alexander, alleging the plaintiffs’ “ongoing pleadings and harassing correspondence was pointedly calculated to incite media attention, portraying Defendants in a disparaging light.”
A hearing in the federal suit is scheduled for at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 13 before U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik.
The federal lawsuit alleges the October incident occurred after the officer remained at a local bar with three other officers consuming alcoholic beverages after 2 a.m. The suit says when the officers left the bar, one of them drove about a half-mile and passed out behind the wheel.
“The officer was not arrested for driving a vehicle while under possible impairment from alcoholic beverages; instead, fellow officers removed him from the vehicle and brought him home,” the suit says.
The petition alleges a “cover up was put in motion whereby the bar owner was issued a perfunctory citation which was subsequently dismissed, the administrative investigation of Dupuis was downgraded to a shift level investigation, false and fabricated testimony by the investigating officers went unpunished, and Dupuis himself received a scant (1) one day suspension for what appeared in every respect to be a major criminal violation.”
The citation that was referred to in the suit was a summons of Brandon L. Hargrave, the owner of City Bar in downtown Lafayette, on a misdemeanor violation for allowing customers to remain in his bar after 2:30 a.m. The document identifies the investigating officer as Lt. Greg Cormier, who is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Cormier’s report does not mention Lafayette police officers as being customers, but a supplemental report identifies the witnesses, who were patrons that morning, as Stephon Lopez, Joel Grayson, Ross Sonnier, Bridgette Poullard, Brock Richard, Brittney Dugas and Kenneth Hardy. Lopez, Grayson, Richard, Dugas and Hardy were all listed as being employees of the Lafayette Police Department.
The report states that Hargrave opened his club to allow patrons to play pool and consume alcohol.
When questioned about the allegations, “defendant only stated that he did not serve alcohol and was not aware that it was a violation to allow patrons to stay in a nightclub past 2:30 a.m.,” Cormier’s report says.
Lafayette City Prosecutor Gary J. Haynes said he agreed to release the public records because the case against Hargrave was dismissed in January.
One of the reasons the summons was dismissed, Haynes said, was because “if law enforcement personnel are on the premises, the defendant would have the ‘apparent authority’ to be open. This would be fatal to the prosecution of the case.”
Hargrave, in a telephone interview Friday, said his bar was not open the night in question.
He said the officers stopped by to tell him hello, but maintains “they were not behind my bar making drinks and I certainly wasn’t serving alcohol.”
He said the officers had been at bars across the street for a birthday party before stopping by briefly to talk with him. Hargrave said his business has never been cited for any alcohol violations since it opened in 2005.
“I take City Bar responsibly,” Hargrave said. “I wouldn’t do that and I did not see one single officer go behind my bar and drink.”